Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Bringing in Light as We Expose the Darkness...

All of my life, I’ve had something of a conflicted relationship with fun. I like having it, that much is clear. I enjoy laughing, having a good time, and, well, pursuing the various things that cause me  to laugh and have a good time. This shouldn’t be very remarkable but still, my tendency toward seeking out fun put me at odds with the other writers and artists I hung around with in college; it was a wedge with the other feminists and the activists I was aligned with then, too. I was always few shades too cheerful for the thinkers and sensitive types. No matter how eager I was to jump on a bus to protest in Washington or confront a cat-calling sleazebag on a street corner, my drive to have fun has always been at least as strong as my robust impulse for justice and equality, which strikes some people as an odd combination, I suppose. 

The conflict comes in because as a lifelong pursuer of fun, I noticed from an early age that buoyant people have been assigned some specific cultural baggage: We’re seen as shallow. We’re seen as silly. We’re seen as lacking in substance. I think this is unfair and narrow-minded, though; shouldn’t the whole person have room for both jumping in leaf piles and also speaking out about social justice issues? (Maybe not at the same time but just because you may get leaves in your mouth.) To me, the perfect balance is a blend of both joy and depth; to cut off our supply of one is to limit our human experience.

Especially today, with our unprecedented ability to instantly share information and with so much of it understandably skewed toward the dark, grim and viscerally violent - just a casual scroll down my Facebook feed has sent me into a reflexive fetal curl lately, with all the images and stories of slaughtered, bloody, mangled and horribly abused beings - I believe that it is vital that we place more of an emphasis on boosting the joy factor and the gratitude so many of us feel for having discovered this way of living that sustains us so well. I am concerned about the level of hopelessness other vegans and those we are trying to reach might feel with this constant barrage of overwhelmingly depressing news. This suffocating milieu of hopelessness can also easily give rise to feelings of helplessness, of compassion fatigue, of despair, of disconnection. How does feeling disempowered in this way help to move people toward a transformation or sustain those of us who are already there? I’m not trying to be all Mary Poppins here, but can’t we also convey a little, you know, happiness and gratitude? Does a tendency toward seeking out fun need to mean that we have a lack of caring? Isn’t enjoyment also an important part of being a whole person?

Having had our blinders removed to what we do to animals means that we are immersed in injustice and brutality, and this is clearly a difficult pain to live with. Given what animals are put through, though, and given how very much they have to lose if people do not see the shift to veganism as enticing, alluring, and something they simply want to do, don’t we owe it to the world to offer a message that is holistic, conveying it with emotional honesty but also joy? It seems to me that living a rich, multi-dimensional life that includes a capacity for happiness is as much an asset for the beings we work on behalf of as it is for us ourselves.

We live in a dark time but also an incredibly exciting time, one where we right now have the ability to create a new consciousness of connection that is changing the world forever for the better. It is happening. An honest depiction of the brutal status quo in regards to what we do to animals is essential toward creating the shift we need but so is communicating the immense rewards of a life that is in alignment: body, mind, spirit and ethics. Instead of the bloody pictures, instead of the doomsday predictions, why not shuffle in a little inspiration, extend a hand to assist rather than bash, express a little joy for the opportunity that we get to live at a time when we can actively cultivate the lives we want, and we can help to ignite this fire of empowerment inside the people we connect with as well. We are so amazingly fortunate and we should never stop being grateful for this fact, celebrate it and take advantage of it. The consciousness of the world is shifting under us like tectonic plates and we should never forget that. 

Sorrow and joy are not irreconcilably at odds with one another. They are both part of the complex emotional experience. So while we educate, tap into joy a little, too. While we expose the truth, tap into gratitude as well. Allow yourself to have some fun. The animals won’t suffer any more for it, I promise; in fact, they stand to benefit a great deal if we can show the world that we are whole people. Yes to it all. It is all part of the experience.

(Speaking of all this, please join us this Saturday at Chicago VeganMania if you are able, where joy and education, fun and activism fizz together in an intoxicating, frothy cocktail.)


  1. AMEN and HOORAY for your wise words, Marla. Love this, and love you, so much.

    I'm sharing this with some friends who are going to really appreciate your message, I'm sure of it.

  2. Hear, hear, Marla! Part of self care is indeed making room for joy…so easy to forget to 'allow' at times :) I know you must be super busy getting ready for your big weekend…but…have a blast! As much as it will be a delight for all the participants so happy to be there among kindred spirits, may it be fun for you organizers as well! Thankyou, as always, for your vision and commitment to a healthier world all round!

  3. Hear, hear, Marla! Part of self care is indeed making room for joy…so easy to forget to 'allow' at times :) I know you must be super busy getting ready for your big weekend…but…have a blast! As much as it will be a delight for all the participants so happy to be there among kindred spirits, may it be fun for you organizers as well! Thankyou, as always, for your vision and commitment to a healthier world all round!

  4. Well, THAT needed to be said. It's impossible to change anything in any permanent way when you meet it with anger, judgment and a sense of moral superiority. The whole purpose of life itself is joy (and gratitude); it's what drives evolution and every one of our instincts. If we see an injustice, the only practical response is to offer a viable alternative---one that brings a satisfactory conclusion to the issue. A very wise teacher of mine once remarked, "If you're grinding your teeth, you're blowing it."

    If you look at old people, they generally fall into just three categories: Angry/disappointed, dulled/catatonic, and joyful/grateful. I think the smartest move is to pick the way you want to end up, set a course and go. The end doesn't justify the means; it defines the means.

  5. Who is the artist? I just brushed by so forgive if I should know already.

  6. This post speaks to me at a time when I've been contemplating this very issue. Thank you. I'm one who did get bogged down for a time, with an over-burdened sensitivity to the grimness you describe. And the only way I've managed to claw my way out of that abyss is by remembering the exuberance I used to have, the way you describe your own disposition, before my personal blinders were removed.

    I had to convince myself that staying depressed, anxious and powerless was actually the easier path -- despite my internal protestations the contrary. And that irrespective of how others tend to diminish the spirit of the joyful ones, it takes so much more strength to transcend with a spark and to retain that spirit of peace and love that you have, even as the world threatens to stifle the flame.

    The quote I always use at the top of my blog is "add your light to the sum of light" -- from the Year of Living Dangerously. It's answered in response to a question about "what then shall we do" ... about the suffering of the world. I, for one, believe that light truly is the only antidote to dark, and it is, indeed, more powerful even though the power of negativity can be alluring.

    Anyway, all of that is a roundabout way of saying thank you very much for this lovely and illuminating post. I agree -- and I needed this added inspiration to fuel these inspirations, ruminations and transitions.


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